New Apps

WTF BOOMERANG
December 13, 2015 10:17 pm

From the makers of everybody’s favorite time waster, Instagram, comes a whole new way to fabricate memories with your friends; Boomerang. Boomerang allows users to create mini videos that loop back and forth, the app shoots a burst of 10 photos and plays them forwards and backwards, which you can then share on Instagram or Facebook right from the app. In the demos for it when you first download the app, it shows a girl who’s taken a picture of herself blowing a bubble of gum and it shows it bursting and un-bursting. The app makes videos/pictures/boomerangs, whatever you call these monstrosities that look like a glitchy video game. Why would anyone make such a thing? I don’t know.

Boomerang is not something that you should read 300-800 words to understand. In short it is a boring dud. If you stop reading here, you’ll have gotten what the app does, but if you want to read a guy rant on about an app that was probably made by a think tank of dumb college kids somewhere in Silicon Valley or wherever the hell Instagram houses its Hefe-filtered headquarters, then keep going.

Is it supposed to be artsy? Is it supposed to be fun? I am not sure. I downloaded the app and immediately un-downloaded it after taking a video, or a gif or a Harry Potter type picture, taking a …boomerang? Whatever the verb of making one of these dull time wasters. Not that I am above a good time waster, or a bad one for that matter. I am usually a person that will give anything a try, I watched 10 minutes of Shia LaBeouf live-streaming himself watching all of his movies, I had more fun in those 10 minutes than I did with this app, and nothing happened in those 10 minutes by the way, he was just sitting there.

Although the app has mixed reviews in the Play Store, it worked well for me. It did record me throwing my beanie up in the air and it did play it forwards and backwards. One of the best things I can say about the app is that it works, another good thing that I can say about the app is that its an app.

What is the reason for boomerang? What is its purpose? Does it stay up late at night asking itself questions like; is God real? No, because Boomerang is one of a thousand fads, you remember Floppy Bird? If you are a person that downloaded Boomerang, I recommend another app for you, it is called Send Me To Heaven. You might not have heard of it, but if you haven’t go ahead and look it up. It is an app made just for you.

In the end Boomerang is just something that your 12 year old niece will download, play with for an hour, and then realize that she has more important things to do with her time than record one second loops of herself making a funny face or whatever it is that people do on this app. Things like, oh I don’t know, literally anything else would be more important that this app.

If you can already record 15 seconds or so on Instagram, why would you limit yourself to a one second loop without a sound? If 15 seconds of content is too much, Vine is a thing. If you want something in between six and 15 seconds, I recommend Snapchat.

Is Instagram out of ideas? Possibly. Is this a bad thing? No. Remember when people didn’t take pictures of their food every time you went out with them? I do, those were good times. Then again I could be wrong and this could be the next big thing and this could be the downfall of civilization.

Boomerang

CHOO-CHOO! ALL ABOARD THE GRAVY TRAIN
December 9, 2015 12:00 am

Ain’t nuthin’ like punching outta work, amirite? Tipping your cap to bossman and walking out the door. “Sayonara, sucker!” Ooo boy it’s just the greatest, and you can’t help but smile. Maybe you reward yourself for getting through the day, maybe with an ice-cream sandwich and a stroll through the neighborhood. “Look at all these buildings,” you say to yourself, licking chocolate sandwich-residue from your fingers. “I wonder what’s inside? What sorts of activities are people doing in there? Can I play too?!”

Gravy1Well put down your pre-dinner dessert and grab your phone (and maybe a napkin). You need to check out Gravy, the app that lets you know what’s going on inside all those buildings. “Couldn’t I just look through the windows?” No that’s insane–how are you going to search miles and miles of buildings for activities you might be interested in? Far better to let the internet do that for you. It’s good at that sort of thing, plus it has informative descriptions and classifications that learn what you like and tailor recommendations to you. But all you really need are options–fun things to do nearby–and you’re good. Everything else is just gravy.

See what I did there? Nailed it.

Alright that’s enough fun for now. Let’s get down to business. Let’s ask the hard-hitting, life-changing question every app review requires: are you going to use Gravy in your life, or are you going to download it, take a look-see and then forget it forever? I’ll be honest (because to be anything else makes me sick): my phone is full of apps I’ll never use. It’s the product of a vicious cycle; my friend shows me something cool, I download it, decide it’s cool (or not) and then move on with my life as if the whole thing never happened. You might be the same, it’s possible. I don’t know, I don’t know who you are. You could be anybody. It’s a world wide web out there.

Well I got news for you, stranger. The answer is “Yes!” Gravy could be easily integrated into your planning routine. It is intuitive and informative, and works locationally and in real time. During that moment when you don’t know what to do Friday night (or Thursday night, or Wednesday night), click a couple phone buttons and educate yourself. There are fun things going on all around you every day. Gravy aggregates these events, activities, and general goings-on so that you don’t have to. Fifteen different small(ish) concerts within five miles. Karaoke tonight, just around the corner. Fiddler On The Roof next weekend. How else are you gonna find out about these things? Gravy is a must-have if you’re trying to go out and do stuff. Tell your friends! Tell your mother! Write it in a letter and send it to yourself via snail mail so you get it in a week! All aboard the gravy train baby! Choo-Choo!

KEEP YOUR GIGS IN CHECK WITH SONGKICK
December 1, 2015 2:09 am

It takes serious dedication to go see live music in 2015.

Song-Kick-Concerts-App-Review0If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time and energy scouring the interwebz for upcoming gigs in your locality, only to realize you’ve already missed the boat.  That band who’s killer new record just dropped last week–that’s been on constant repeat on your Walkman–has already finished their encore, packed it in, and moved on to their next tour stop.  Guess you’ll have the catch them the next time they come around…

Alright, come on.  Cheer up.

Songkick has been helping devoted concert goers track their favorite artists and snag tickets to upcoming shows since 2007.  The start-up was founded by a group of tech-minded music nerds in London’s so-called Silicon Roundabout.  The company has quickly grown to become the second largest e-ticket vendor behind Ticketmaster. Using it’s expansive database of over 2,000,000 artists, Songkick automatically generates a feed of recommended gigs based on the artists on your device’s Spotify, and the ones you’ve liked on Facebook. Notifications are sent to you via email the moment tickets go on sale, so don’t wait!

WHAT I WOULD SAY TO MY AMAZON ECHO
November 25, 2015 1:30 am

Picture yourself driving your car. Just a regular Sunday drive with the fam, on your way to the Apple store or Best Buy or whatever Circuit City wannabe is convenient and affordable. Maybe you’re cruising in your brand new, wifi-connected sedan. Maybe the kids are streaming Elmo in the backseat, bae is tweeting hard in shotgun, and you’ve got Siri barking directions through the stereo. You check a snap, ‘gram a selfie and think to yourself, “Do I have enough technology in my life? Are other people more fun than me? I like Siri but I don’t like this stupid phone she comes with, can’t I just leave her in my kitchen all the time?”

Well stop the car and open your eyes. Get your ass on that internet. The future is now, and it comes with a robotic personal assistant: the Amazon Echo. Use your car’s built-in wifi, baby! That’s why you got it!

Amazon Echo is a smallish cylindrical speaker designed to be your family’s virtual butler. Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, and now Amazon has Alexa. She’s always listening, just give her a command. Go ahead, try it!

“Alexa, play the Macarena.”

Boom! Just like that, you’re dancing. I like your style too, keep up the good work.

“Alexa, please pass the ketchup.”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whoa there buddy, not so fast. Alexa’s not your crummy old lazy Susan. Save actually doing stuff for the drones.

“Alexa, is Inspector Gadget considered science-fiction or fantasy?”

See? It’s easy! Amazon has taken the convenience of pressing a button on your phone and removed having to actually press the button or have a phone. Put Siri inside a Bose Wave music system and you’ve got the Echo.

No it’s not actually partnered with Bose, but the sound quality is rumored to be excellent. So are the 7 internal microphones designed to receive your every command, even over the unimaginable dins, ruckuses, and everyday blatherings of you and your family. Yes, these microphones are always at attention, eager to fulfill your requests and perhaps amass usable data for Amazon or the government to exploit. Wake up America!

Calm down America. Take off your tinfoil hats and get real. Nobody cares about your gossip and rigamarole. The government doesn’t want your grandma’s famous margarita recipe (although if it’s anything like Grandma Anderson’s, I wouldn’t blame them). Your Xbox Kinect is already watching you every single day and night of your relentless lives. What more do you have to lose?

“Alexa, does the NSA still monitor all of my phone and internet conversations?”

That’s a ridiculous question, and it has nothing to do with Alexa. How dare you associate your little kitchen helper–your recipe robot, your family friend!–to the nefarious activity of the American government. Get off your high horse and do the dishes.

“Alexa, do we really need another distraction in our lives? Didn’t we already invent Siri? Where does it all end?!”

Come on dude, work with me here. Gimme something I can use.

“Alexa, who am I?”

Whoa that’s deep. No wait, I can do this. Let me think a second, hold on.

Okay. Picture yourself driving your car. Just a regular Sunday drive with the fam, on your way to the Apple store or Best Buy or whatever Radio Shack vulture is convenient and affordable. Maybe you’re connected to your car’s built-in wifi, and maybe you just got a reminder from Alexa. Maybe you’ve synced the app and all its data onto your phone so it can track you around and tell the government that you were late to your appointment. You don’t worry though, because you’re a good person. Your kids learn the alphabet in the backseat, bae tweets fire at celebrities, and you get home in time to ask Alexa the meaning of life. Just another perfect day with your Amazon Echo.

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NAVIGATING THROUGH EVERY NOISE AT ONCE
November 18, 2015 2:55 am

You’ve probably seen musical genres represented visually: lines connecting artists or eras, shapes and colors defining interrelationships (with varying purviews and degrees of similarity). Sometimes they look like subway maps, constellations, or large, elaborate plants. They’re all visually pleasing, but they’re never quite the same–which is good, as it gives them each a unique insight into one specific aspect of music. Genres don’t fall on a linear scale. You could sort them by instrumentation, tempo, key, origin, lyrics, mood, relation to other music, to fans, critics, or any number of variables representing a piece of the noise.

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Every Noise at Once, an incredibly detailed visual representation of musical genres, defines its range by two general variables: “down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.” Other than that it is minimalistic, a rainbow of small words on an empty white page. Many genres are familiar, like blues-rock, tin-pan-alley or opera. Click on indie r&b, for example, to hear 30 seconds of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (or the link at the bottom for the whole song on Spotify). Click on the little arrow button to further explore the genre. Exemplifying artists splatter this next page, multitudinous and fascinating. Phantogram, Chvrches, Yeasayer, Grimes, Macy Grey, Drake, Pharrell, Aaliyah, Wyclef and 500 other musicians we all know and love are messily strewn in a generally red-to-green pile of words. Listing them all would be counterproductive, because exploring them yourself–realizing how many you know, how far apart they are from each other, why they are categorized similarly–is the whole point of the site. It’s something to sit and look at for hours. It is stimulating and satisfying.

Now multiply that by a thousand and you start to understand what ENaO really is. See, that was just one example: the enormous world of indie r&b, a world quite familiar to millennial interneters like myself. But the list of Every Noise at Once’s genres lists 1,371 distinct types of music, each with an equally detailed picture of music. Many genres are regionally specific, like swedish punk or didgeridoo, or simply obscure like musique concrete or liturgical. Spoken word genres are well represented, including poetry, oratory, comedy, and drama (Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” is the main example for drama, LOL). You might think that’s pushing the definition of musical genre, but I got news for you buddy: we’re just getting started. Ridiculous alleged “genres” abound, some overly specific (dark-electro-industrial, progressive-uplifting-trance), some completely absurd (hauntology, corrosion, skinhead reggae). But they are all rooted in an active or historical musical community, and the most interesting ones lie somewhere between “I can’t believe that’s a thing ” and “oh I guess that does make sense now that I think about it.”

Consider abstractro, a type of abstract electronic music, or laboratorio, an avant-garde, old-timey-tech thing. Both make theoretical sense, but I’m sure I’ve never met anyone in my life who has used those completely made-up words. Abstractro? Laboratorio? They’re straight out of a cartoon like Marvin the Martian. Maybe I’m wrong and my upstairs neighbor really loves abstractro (or dansktop, witch house, footwork, discofox, etc), but I’m probably not, and the only way I’m ever going to experience laboratorio (or grave wave, sleep, dark jazz, riot grrrl, etc) is through Every Noise at Once.

They know this–that ENaO is insanely detailed and uniquely comprehensive–and actively work it to their advantage. The juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated genres is insightful and thought-provoking; who would have thought that deep jazz fusion and mellow gold could be so similar? What does it mean that nepali music and crack-rock-steady are similarly organic and atmospheric? What is the algorithm they’re using to define these relationships, and does it completely ignore details like time-period/location of origin? What is the deal?!

After clicking deeper into a genre and exploring the musicians within, you are encouraged to explore nearby artists (same as the main page) or artists representing genres on the complete opposite end of their respective spectrum. Take meditation, for example, a genre full of incredibly relaxing noises. The bottom of that page has two boxes: the meditation box (with green genres like meditation, healing and new-age), and the opposite-of-meditation box (with orange genres like edm, house and bubblegum-pop). You might not have known that house music is the opposite of meditation. Perhaps you’ve found peace at the club, dhyana in the edm. No shame.

Every Noise at Once is the most complete visual representation of musical genres I could possibly imagine. If you spend your days thinking about music, their histories and interrelationships, then spend a little while pouring over the site. You’ll learn completely new things about fascinating music from around the world, and–if you’re not careful–you just might have a little fun in the process.

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CHORDMASTER: THE LONG ROAD TO MEDIOCRITY
November 17, 2015 6:36 pm

What’s one thing that this world sorely lacks?

If your answer is “More people that sort-of know how to play guitar a little,” than you are in for a treat.

Mahalo.com’s Chordmaster is here to send you on your way to being a little better at guitar than you previously were.

The app is charmingly simple with only two modes: “Play” and “Practice.” Practice presents tab forms of major, minor, and major seventh chords for less than half of the keys, limited to the first three frets. The app will highlight which frets need to be pressed, and then sound the chord upon fretting correctly. The practice mode also offers the chance to “play” without any guides or penalties, practicing chords from memory.

The Play mode takes this concept and attempts to put it to a “Survival” game. The screen will list a chord by name, prompting the player to press the correct frets as quickly as they can. There is a timer falling to zero, and the more chords you can hit before running out of time, the higher your score goes. The game also allows for integration with Facebook, incorporating leader boards and the ability to invite friends.

Chordmaster is a pretty good idea, with some issues in its execution. First of all, the “Play” mode has an insanely steep learning curve. Each chord is only presented once. After that you are expected to remember it, and are penalized for requiring a prompt. With the default timer being set to about 20 seconds, this means I (as a beginner) was only able to get about 3 or 4 chords in a row before losing, and that’s if the controls worked properly.

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“But isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t that encourage you to get better?”

In theory yes, but in practice it is actually discouraging. I should not have to already know all the chords in this app to be able to start to play it. Some sort of a more forgiving “Beginner Mode” would be much appreciated. After all, the whole point of a game like this is to “trick” the user into learning guitar. It feels like you have to learn guitar in order to play this game.

Another issue is the physical interface. I found it basically impossible to hold the phone as you would an actual guitar neck and play. I do have a bigger phone, and Chordmaster incorporated a setting where you can shrink the width of the virtual guitar’s neck, but this didn’t solve this issue. The problem didn’t come from the size, but more the layout and response. I found it very difficult to place my fingers in such a way in order to play the frets the way they were supposed to.

“Well it’s hard to do that on a real guitar too! That’s what makes playing guitar so hard!”

Yes, but real guitars don’t tell me I’m playing strings that I’m not touching at all. They also allow for bar chords, which Chordmaster has an issue with. On a real guitar I could use one finger to press down three strings on the same fret. Chordmaster doesn’t like this. These issues led to me playing the “frets” with both hands, using a combination of thumbs and forefingers, which is not how anybody plays guitar at all. What this means is that while the app can teach you how to play these chords (in theory), it can’t teach you the muscle memory required to actually put them on the guitar. In almost any physical thing one might practice, muscle memory is the ultimate goal, and a sign of true retention. This app can’t provide that.

Finally, there is the most glaring issue with Chordmaster – IT ONLY TEACHES YOU 14 CHORDS!

“But aren’t those the most important ones? Like the ones that are the most used…”

NO! There is not one form of B chord, no C or G minor, and no sharp or flat keys at all. Hope you don’t plan on playing with a horn player ever. It also doesn’t allow for playing chords in any another position on guitar.

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“But weren’t they trying to keep the general “feel” of a guitar by sticking to three frets? Besides, that sounds like it’s starting to get pretty complicated…”

Well we already established that the Chordmaster fretboard doesn’t come close to working like a real guitar, so why not give the app the functionality to be a more useful learning tool? It couldn’t be more complicated than sitting down with an awkward app to learn 14 chords just so you can play a demanding game.

Chordmaster is free, so expecting perfect functionality is unrealistic. But the starkness of features in this app leads me to believe it is a ploy to get people to buy Mahalo’s “Learn Guitar” app for $1.99, complete with a click-through in Chordmaster’s main menu.

Chordmaster can help you memorize the frets of the 14 basic chords that it teaches you. But it can’t teach you anything about how to actually play them. If you’re looking for a fun, guitar-based game, look elsewhere. If you’re a guitar student looking to improve at chords, there’s a good chance you already know these ones. If you are brand new to guitar, you may leave Chordmaster with more knowledge than you had going in, but you probably won’t have much fun doing it.

Does knowing the most basic versions of the most basic chords make you a Chord Master?

No it does not.

Know what might?

Practice playing guitar.

GOT TALNTS?!
November 12, 2015 8:30 am

Imagine an app that lets you not only show off your talents, but also discover the talents and gifts of others. Need an illustrator for that epic graphic novel you’ve been thinking about? Need a drummer for that band you’re starting? Need a model or photographer for your chic clothing line? TALNTS has been created to help you cut out the middle man and go directly to the source. The app is fresh to the social media scene, dressed in the potential to sit at the cool kids table with all the other in demand social media apps.

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John Goldbranson, 29, CEO of TALNTS, realized a better way that he and people all over the world could display their talents without over exhausting themselves. Thus began the creation of TALNTS, an app where everyone, everywhere, could show the world their gifts and/or collaborate. As a singer and writer, I instantly found this app intriguing. Curious, I gave it a go. Signing up was very simple. I created my profile and added #tags and four mandatory images, keeping in mind what I thought best to describe me and my talents. All of this became my Talnts Card.

There are four main features to this app. The Feed, this works just like Instagram by displaying the posts of the people you choose to connect with. The Highlights Page, which lets you see what the most popular content is on the app. Connect Search, where you can set the benchmark for what exactly you are looking for. This includes filters for distance from location as well as hashtags. I also was given the option of linking the app to my other networks such as SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Within twenty-four hours I had sixteen people who wanted to connect with me.

There is no doubt that there is countless talent about to get discovered and many connections to be made on this app.

KARAOKE ANYWHERE & THE STAGE OF HEROES
November 11, 2015 12:44 am

A single spotlight on an empty stage. Fade-in synths, enter baseline and percussion. A shadow emerges, a face in the dark. Lips pursed, brow furrowed, eyes tight, heart racing. Drum fill shatters the tension. The crowd is electric, hanging on every expression, every whiff of emotion. W-whoa w-whoa w-w-w-whoa w-whoa w-whoa w-w-w-whoa. Every single hardship of humanity is irrelevant. In this moment we are heroes, a collection of souls united behind a single, magical, performative experience. Once upon a time, not so long ago. Reputation be damned. Nothing exists beyond the end of this song. Pride and shame become one in the limelight, and the only course of action is to expose your heart to the world, to define yourself once and for all. Confidence abounds, sure as the day you were born, barely in time to begin: Tommy used to work on the docks…

Everybody has their go-to karaoke jam. If you don’t, figure one out. It’s an excellent first-date question, like “what’s your favorite animal” or “would you like to play my kazoo?” or “did you just call me ‘mom’?” Who you are in your karaoke moment is how you’ll be remembered by tens, maybe hundreds of people. Were you Jon Bon Jovi? Probably not, but you were close. You could have been, maybe you still could be. Never give up on yourself.

Now imagine you could have the same karaoke experience without the hassle of a dark, dusty bar. Without the smelly mic, the kids yelling from the anonymous corner of the room. “You suck!” they say, crushing your swollen heart. “Sing like Creed!” What are they thinking?! The absurdity of it all is overwhelming, and you might not survive.

Fortunately there’s Karaoke Anywhere, an app that lets you sing karaoke, well, anywhere. Wherever you are, you can sing. Need I say more? Here, I’ll let them explain:

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“We’ve partnered with a ton of Karaoke manufacturers to bring you the world’s most complete and fully legal streaming Karaoke library on the planet! For a low monthly price you can stream as many songs as you can handle, selecting from an expansive library of songs updated monthly.”

When I first read that they were the world’s most complete library on the planet, I saw past the redundancy and focused on their emphatic completeness. Do they have every song ever made? Perhaps they’ve conducted extensive research on karaoke preferences around the globe, ranking music by popularity and singability. Who is to say what constitutes an entirely complete collection? Surely I could find a counterexample, a song I’d like to sing not included in their library. Wouldn’t that prove their imperfection and imply their incompleteness?

Precisely, and it didn’t take long. It was the first place I looked, in fact, right between Bonnie Raitt and Boston: a big empty patch of nothing. My heart sank. No Bon Jovi! Why else am I here except for my main man JBJ! We used to call him Jonny Badass in high school, a practice I’d defend with my life to this day. My name is Ian and “Livin’ On A Prayer” is my go-to karaoke jam. Karaoke Anywhere did not have that song, nor any other Jovi masterpiece, and I am disappointed.

Maybe it’s not their fault. I can totally see Jonny Badass withholding the rights, squeezing every dollar out of his songs. It is all about the Benjamins, baby. Indeed, Karaoke Anywhere does have an immense library full of reputable artists. Scroll through the A’s to find Aretha, Aaliyah, Alanis, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, Alice Cooper and All-American Rejects, as well as about 75 more “A”-listers. Yes I said 75, I counted them because I was surprised by how many there were. About as many B’s too (despite one glaring omission), and generally consistent throughout the alphabet. I’d consider paying $9.99/month for the listening rights if I didn’t already have Spotify.

But I do have Spotify, and I don’t need Karaoke Anywhere. They’re not even the actual songs, just wordless, soulless reproductions, background tracks to Kidz Bop music. Yes I can imagine an unlikely scenario where I would want to sing these songs in public specifically without the artists’ vocals, but doing so requires a seriousness usually reserved for professionals, most of whom wouldn’t be caught dead using a karaoke machine they downloaded onto their phones. I’m comfortable just singing along to the actual song, especially in informal situations. Obviously life on stage is a different story–how dare JBJ step on my toes during my moment of glory–but most karaoke stages have karaoke machines. You don’t need to bring your own.

GET YOUR GROOVE ON WITH GROOVE SCRIBE
November 10, 2015 5:49 pm

Q: How do you tell if your stage is level?

A: The drool is coming out of both sides of your drummer’s mouth.

The “Dumb Drummer” joke. A staple of any respectable touring group. Even aside from the preconceived derogatory jokes, drummers catch a lot of flak.

One reason behind this is that there is a huge percentage of drummers who are completely self-taught. While many of these players are legit, this trend can precipitate the stereotype that drummers are dummies who don’t actually know anything about music.

This trend has compounded even further with the advent of electronic drums and digital producing. Now you don’t even need a drumset to be a bad drummer – just a laptop. Again, this has opened the door for some to write drum parts who otherwise might not have tried (Dan Deacon, James Murphy, Darwin Deez…), but it has made a longtime issue in drumming even more problematic: How do I write down this drumbeat?

For as long as drumming has been a thing, this has been an issue, even for highly trained drummers. Traditional music notation doesn’t really work as well for a drumset. There is a high learning curve toward reading any musical notation well, but traditional western notation can be frustrating even for drummers that know what they’re doing, especially when trying to write music on computer software.

Fortunately electronic drumming did not just complicate this problem, it also provided a solution.

That solution is Groove Scribe, a new notation and learning tool from Mike Johnston. Johnston’s website (mikeslessons.com) is the largest educational website for drummers in the world. Through his experience, Johnston became aware of just how much of a pain it is to digitally “jot down” a drum beat, especially for the many players that don’t have the requisite music theory knowledge, or the necessary musical notation software suite.

Johnston’s solution came from the world of drum machines. The advent of samplers brought with it a new concept – a beat grid. Incorporated in some of the earliest drum machines, beat grids are now commonplace in programs like Ableton and even GarageBand. These grids are a relatively simple representation of a musical measure, and allow mostly anyone to come up with a drum beat.

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Example of an Ableton beat grid

Johnston’s tool takes the grid a step further. After composing a beat on the grid, Groove Scribe then translates that grid into actual musical notation. This makes this not only an ease-of-use notation tool, but also a learning tool. Now drummers that don’t have a firm grasp of notation can not only write out their beats, but also learn how to write them out in proper form.

Another huge feature of Groove Scribe is the share function. Any beat can be named and sent to any friend, student, or bandmate. This furthers Groove Scribe’s use as a teaching tool. Now a teacher can send a beat, the student can see it, hear it, and then change it and send it back. This can also be used to help musicians collaborate over long distances.

The craziest thing about Groove Scribe is its price point. That is – it doesn’t have one. This tool is totally free to use, for anyone, at any time. This exponentially increases its use as a learning tool. I can post a link to a beat, and any drummer in the world (with internet access) can use it. There is no sign up or download, just instant beat making. Johnston also provides a series of tutorials, highlighting the depth of functionality that Groove Scribe offers.

The one issue with Groove Scribe is that it’s currently only browser based, so you need an active internet connection to use it. Hopefully an app version is on the way, which would allow users to quickly use the tool on their devices. While the online version still looks pretty good on a mobile device, it certainly leaves some things to be desired, and doesn’t feel exactly “right.” Also, there can be a bit of lag when the drum loops repeat, especially when doing anything else with your browser. An app would also help as many drummers have access to their smart phone while sitting at their drumset, but not necessarily a computer.

So go ahead, give it a shot. Make a beat. Or better yet, take mine and make it better.

beat atticus

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN YOUR IPAD
November 9, 2015 12:08 am

What would Alice in Wonderland look like if it happened in your iPad? Probably terrifying to the juvenile heroine of the story. Luckily, The Alice App is a program designed to get children interested in literature and art, and not an exploration of the darkest recesses of your browsing habits.

The app features the full text of the novel, plus the option to have the text read out loud. Where the program really shines, however, is in its interactive illustrations based on Dutch and Flemish Renaissance art. Users can explore each painting by touching, rotating, or tapping their screen to find surprises hidden inside.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS spoke with The Alice App creator Emmanuel Paletz on the creation of the program, and what it’s like to be a New York Times-recognized art director.

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How did you choose which art pieces would be included in the app? What is the significance of using Renaissance-era paintings to illustrate the story, versus art that was current when Alice in Wonderland was released in 1865?

The illustration of the story started as a book and took me about 4 years to develop because publishing a book is very expensive; I decided to create an app with all the benefits that go with it.

First I decided to illustrate the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because it is the most complicated and clever grown-up and children’s book that I know of. It is a mind-blowing book that a lot of politicians quote phrases from.

Secondly, in my opinion, the world doesn’t need another illustration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You have 150 years of the most talented illustrators who did art work for this book, so if you are going to do something new do it in the most innovative and original way that you can. By saying so, I did research before starting to illustrate the book.

I found that some of Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for the book’s characters came from English history, and some of the current painters were the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance artists from that time from whom Lewis Carroll got his inspiration.

For example, John Tenniel actually copied an extract from Flemish master Quentin Matsys’ painting The Ugly Duchess for his 1869 illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I really love the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance paintings. For me it is like traveling in time, so at this point we made a connection. Some of the reasons I decided to go specifically to the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance artists to illustrate this book include artistic and historic value, and to provide a real, historic basis to enhance the story.

Alice in Wonderland has been a favorite among children in movie and television formats for a long time. Why did you feel it was important to frame the story as an illustrated book/app?

First I did the illustration of the story as a book (as I mentioned before) and an app is the closest thing to engage, play and react to as opposed to TV and books where you are just a passive viewer.

Price wise it is a lot cheaper and more effective than all other media and everyone can afford to produce it.

Lastly, an app is the only tool that I know of that you can go in a second time and grab more information by clicking a link, and my app is an educational book too so for me it was the perfect platform to develop in.

What do you hope children will gain from The Alice App?

Because I have used the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance artists, I hope that I am opening the door for children and adults to appreciate art and history. At the end of my app, I created “unlock me”, where I reveal my artist inspirations and what paintings I used in my art collages, so I hope it will help children to develop a curiosity for art.

Your previous book releases have been based around food and design. In your opinion, how are the two connected? And when did you become interested in designing an experience for children, as in The Alice App?

For me it was the same approach I used both for books and collage art, and the same concept of “political comment”. I tried to solve riddles once they’re in the form of food, like “what you can do with a carrot that will give a new meaning once it is through a children’s book?” But it is the same.

The Museum of Modern Art has sold two of your books, Art and Cook and The Spirits of Cocktail. How did you get involved with them?

Once I got an article published in the New York Times magazine about my book Art and Cook, they called us and from there it was easy for the second book, The Spirits of Cocktail, to be sold in the store.

How did you get started as an illustrator? Did digital and interactive art always interest you, or were you initially more interested in pencil or pen and ink?

The thing is I don’t see myself as an illustrator. First, I’m an artist who comes from the world of oil paint; I studied art for three years for my BA and second, I’m a designer who studied BFA in design for four years at a very prestigious academy of art and design. My studying taught me to connect things together to create new meanings.

So before I started to study, and during my art studies for my BA, I painted in oil color more in abstract layouts than figures. Once I started to go into the world of design, my “commercial art” became 100% digital collage art, and from time to time I return to my first love of painting.

Many art directors support themselves by working in advertising or similar industries. Has this been as issue for you?

I would like to do my art 100% but working gives me a grip on the real world and gives me rocket fuel for the next artistic project, so I can’t really tell you how my art would look without the tension of my professional work. So I think the bottom line is that the professional work gives me the inspiration and motivation to do my art.

What advice can you offer an artist who is looking to focus more on fine art as a career?

This is the hardest question that you’ve asked me so far!

These are my rules for myself:

  1. Be truthful to yourself.
  2. Try to hear what others have to say, just to prove them wrong, and you will know whether their advice makes sense or not.
  3. The most dangerous thing is if you become famous, it can kill your art because you start to produce things that others like but are not necessarily what you like, but they are your employers so that can be a dilemma and a problem.

What advice can you offer to people studying design in college? What can they expect after graduating?

Try to do artwork, and by doing so it will strengthen your portfolio. For me now, the big ad agencies hire me more because of my art projects than because of the work that I did for the big brands.

What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

I need to complete the second book of Alice Through the Looking Glass. I’ve already completed all the illustrations but now I need to start the production part and it will be a nightmare!

And otherwise, god knows, you never know where you will get the next big idea.

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